printer-friendly version



When egalitarians talk about how people are equal we do not mean that people are identical. We do not mean that people have the same talents or skills or integrity of character. We know full well that people vary from one another in all sorts of ways, physically and mentally.


Egalitarians do not advocate making people equal, in the sense of identical. We're not concerned that some people are different from others. Indeed these differences are often a positive thing that makes life more interesting!


For egalitarians, equality (meaning "equality of outcome" as opposed merely to "equal opportunity" to get richer than others) most certainly does NOT mean anything at all like what the novelist, Kurt Vonnegut, portrayed it to be in his satirical story titled "Harrison Bergeron" in which:


"It is the year 2081. Because of amendments to the Constitution, all Americans are fully equal, meaning that no one is allowed to be smarter, better-looking, or more physically able than anyone else. The Handicapper General's agents enforce the equality laws, forcing citizens to wear 'handicaps': a mask if they are too beautiful, radio earphones with shrill noise to disrupt the thinking of intelligent people, and heavy weights to burden the strong or athletic."


Apologists for social/economic inequality want people to believe that egalitarians are crazy people aiming to make everybody exactly the same. Asserting that egalitarians hold such a stupid view is just a cheap debater's trick. Thus Ayn Rand, the champion of inequality, writes:


"To understand the meaning and motives of egalitarianism, project it into the field of medicine. Suppose a doctor is called to help a man with a broken leg and, instead of setting it, proceeds to break the legs of ten other men, explaining that this would make the patient feel better; when all these men become crippled for life, the doctor advocates the passage of a law compelling everyone to walk on crutches—in order to make the cripples feel better and equalize the 'unfairness' of nature."


The fact that the critics of egalitarianism have to resort to flat out lying about what egalitarians believe shows how incapable they are of making a persuasive argument against what egalitarians actually believe.


So what do egalitarians mean by "equality?" We mean equality in the sense of no rich and no poor. We mean that people--despite their very real differences--nonetheless have an equal right to enjoy the benefits made possible by naturally occuring and socially produced wealth according to need and reasonable desire if they contribute reasonably according to ability. It's that simple.


Sure, people have different needs. So a sick person needs more medical care than a healthy person; a large family needs a larger house than a small family; one person may need to eat more than another, etc. People have all sorts of different needs. So what? The point is that, among those who contribute reasonably, there should be equality of status with respect to being able to take (for free) products and services from the economy according to reasonable need and desire. THIS is what it means to have "no rich and no poor."

Yes, of course, some people have greater or different abilities than others; and some people have greater or different needs and desires than others. We know that, and have no problem with that. We believe, however, that the differences between people are not a reason for some being richer than others. We believe, for example, that the children of a janitor and the children of a physician should enjoy the same standards of education, healthy food, quality health care, comfortable living space, quality clothing, leisure time, fun vacations, and healthy and attractive environment.



This article may be copied and posted on other websites. Please include all hyperlinks.